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Justin Timberlake, noted male, is bad at feuds

Posted by Scott Kearnan  March 13, 2013 11:40 AM

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Celebrity feuds are a bloodsport we love to cheer on. When they're between women, anyway. Between guys? Whatever, pass the chips. We have far less interest in watching two men tear each other down.

Exhibit A: the abbreviated argument between Kanye West and Justin Timberlake, already being put to bed just when things were starting to get good.

If you blinked and missed its humble beginnings, the spat started last month when Kanye dissed Justin at a London concert. "I got love for Hov, but I ain't [bleeping] with that 'Suit & Tie,'" said Kanye, referring to Timberlake's latest single-slash-1960s game show jingle.

Then, in a recent performance on Saturday Night Live, Justin changed a line in the song to spike one back in Kanye's direction. "My hit's so sick got rappers acting dramatic," he sang.

Break out the popcorn, it's about to go down!

Wrong. In the most boring backtrack ever, Justin appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the other night, claiming temporary amnesia and sending Kanye a big, sloppy make-up smooch. This was the brief exchange.

Jimmy: "It felt like to me you changed one of the lyrics in 'Suit & Tie.'"

Justin: "Did it seem that way? I don't remember that."

More talking, more talking, more talking.

Justin: "You know, really everyone, keep calm. ... For the record, I absolutely love Kanye."

[Crickets.] That's it? That's the end of that?

I want my money back!

Look, let's be honest. Everyone loves a good celebrity feud. We even love the hyperbole of the word "feud." It's gratifyingly loaded with the notion of deep-rooted resentments. We imagine two celebrities, chomping hay in rocking chairs on the porches of their Beverly Hills estates, grumbling about that time twenty years ago when the other gave a side-eye on the red carpet or brought an irresponsible drunk to the dinner party at the Old Vanderpump Place.

It's fun to pretend rich people are miserable.

Plus, we get to pick sides. That's fun too. In a complicated world, there's something nice about the black-and-whiteness of declaring without reservation that you "ABSOLUTELY HATE!" or are "completely obsessed with" someone you have never met, not once. In certain settings, that would be pathological. When idling time by reading tabloids with a friend on a long T ride, it's a bonding experience.

So we declare our allegiance: Team Jennifer or Team Angelina. Team Nicki or Team Mariah. Team Madonna or Team Gaga. Notice something? Most of the high-profile feuds, those that really make gossip blogs run wild, are between women. I doubt that's because Hollywood is some utopian fraternity where men just always get along, all the time. I think it has more to do with the fact that we love to pit women against each other. To pretend that they are locked in some eternal competition over who is better and cooler and prettier, because heaven forbid we allow more than one at a time to be really successful at the same general kind of thing. That's just crazy. Soon they'll be wearing slacks and voting.

On the other hand, the minute a juicy feud between guys gets started, we're totally willing to let them bury the hatchet. ("Here, let me sharpen that," we say to women.)


Look at the reactions to the lame pretense of amnesty between Kanye and Justin.

"Justin Timberlake Loves Kanye After All," reported ABC News. "Justin Timberlake Squashes Beef Buzz," said "I am neutered and boring," said Justin Timberlake with his eyes.

Don't tell me we'd let two women get off the hook this easy. If Mariah Carey suddenly said she definitely didn't remember saying something about Nicki Minaj that she very definitely said on live TV two nights ago, no one would interpret her denial as an olive branch. We'd all make a "meow" sound and evaluate the effectiveness of her "shade." (Definition: artful sassing.) And when Madonna commended Lady Gaga's "good voice" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November, no one stopped the presses to throw in the morning headline, "Breaking! Madonna Actually Not Bitter, Horrible." No, they're women. We want to keep those catfights purring in the press.

Sure, sometimes famous guys "fight." They may even "beef." (Cause, you know, meat.) But these are typically short-lived conflicts over a parking space or an acting role. We read about it for a week and then, ho-hum, we move on, because no one wants to belittle Alec Baldwin by pretending that he's sitting at home throwing darts at a poster of Shia LaBeouf. But if Madonna never again mentioned Lady's Gaga name until the day she died, there would still be gossip that her evil, vein-y claws were found wrapped around a voodoo doll.

Chicks, man. They can't give it up. Or maybe that's just us.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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